Tale of Genji

Leisurely, Poetic Love

By Murasaki Shikibu
From Selections from Tale of Genji & Heike
Translated By Helen Craig McCullough
Japanese, (c. 1010, before 1330), 1994
Ancient Epic 

Main Attractions

1.  Leisurely, Poetic World    
2.  Very Immersive Story
3.  Complimentary Language Style
4.  Interconnected Smaller Events
5.  Themes of Complex Relationships
6.  Varieties of Cultural Rituals
7.  Lush, Exquisite Language
8.  Moments of Shock & Humour
9.  Decadent, Wealthy Lifestyles
10. Emotional Turmoil from Everyone

Cuisine & Delicacies
Ranked as:  Decadent Chocolate Cheese & Cake
The sheer number of poems and highly poetic language emphasizes the artistic nature of this time period.  Princes and Courtesans will recite poetry to each other as conversation which can become well, reminiscent of a decadent chocolate cheese cake.  It’s a joy to savour these passages bit by bit rather than in a standard timeframe.  The details of Genji’s life may also come across as decadent or it could feel like one tragic love story after another with a few odd consequences thrown into the mix.  Overall, it’s a deliciously scandalous read that’s also laced with poetic wisdom and the most beautiful language.

Why Visit Here

This is one of Japan’s most beloved epic tales of love, relationships, culture and the slow passage of time.  During this book’s historical period, the Heian Period, Japan created its own writing systems: Katakana and Hiragana.  We can learn about the leisurely culture of the most elite members of Japan during one of their richest periods for artistry.  

Destination Summary

The Tale of Genji
A 2 minute presentation style trailer that gives a brief overview of the synopsis.

Off the Beaten Path

Genji Monogatari Sympony - Overture By Isao Tomita
A 2 min. Clip that touches on various chapters in the book, setting them to music.  The first few seconds are slightly high pitched, the rest is a softer, beautiful medley.

Travel Advisory

Some of Genji’s relationships would be questionable by today’s standards.  An open mind is certainly needed when reading about some of these scandalous affairs.  After stepping back, the larger themes that emerge are well worth the initial surprise at Genji engaging in these affairs.

Packing List
✓ Book of Basho’s Poetry
✓ Calligraphy Set
✓ Luxurious Robes or Cozy Blanket

Recommended Resources
Movie Adaptations
✓ Murasaki Shikibu: Genji Monogatari (1987) Directed by Gisaburo Sugii - It’s the most recent film adaptation of this great work & is animated.

Alternate Movies
Japan : History of Japan's Ancient and Modern Empire 

Heian Literature and Japanese Court Women

Writing and Literature in the Heian Period